Ford’s ‘Drunk Suit’ Teaches Teens Dangers of Driving Under the Influence
I’ve worn Ford’s “Drunk Suit,” and let me tell you this: It totally works. It didn’t seem like it would be so difficult when Ford gave me an opportunity to wear the funny-looking goggles and weights, but the lesson I learned was effective. If you've never been stumbling drunk, Ford's "Drunk Suit" will show you what it feels like.
A group of Los Angeles area bloggers were invited for an educational lunch and an opportunity to learn more about Ford’s “Drunk Suit.” While we were gathered, we also learned a bit about Ford’s “Driving Skills for Life” (DSFL) program, which educates teen drivers on the various hazards of operating a vehicle while distracted or impaired. Here’s an interesting factoid we learned from Officer Baldonado, the California Highway Patrolman who led our lunch: Did you know that in many states, ANY amount of alcohol in a teen’s blood system is enough to earn them a citation for driving under the influence?
I’ve heard of the Ford DSFL program before, but this year’s program has amped up the learning experience with the use of new wearable technology: the impairment simulator suit. So I took my turn, strapped a weight onto my right arm and left leg, donned the goggles, and tried to walk a straight line. Key word here is TRIED. The weights set me off balance, while the goofy goggles gave me nauseating double vision and altered my field of view so that it was impossible for me to see clearly. Walking was difficult. I can’t imagine what it might be like to try to drive wearing the getup. Straight line? WHAT line!
According to At.Ford.Com, when students participating in the DSFL program don the gear, they are also encumbered by additional weights, joint limiters, and pads to slow reaction time, creating the sensation of a driver’s reflexes being slowed and movements being impaired. Then they are made to navigate a driving course while experiencing these physical limitations. A local law enforcement officer also administers a field sobriety test. The student or parent is asked to do a number of tasks that help the officer gauge their impairment status, including walking across a straight line drawn on the ground. I couldn’t do it, and I wasn’t even completely outfitted!
Kyle Green, program coordinator, Ford DSFL, said the addition of the suit coupled with the goggles showcases the dangers of driving in an impaired state or under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
“Teens and adults who have put on the suit are surprised at how much they are affected after initially thinking they could easily ‘beat the suit’ and pass the tests administered by the local police officers at our program,” Green said. “The goal is to affect the decision-making process. Once the participants experience the possible effects that drugs or alcohol can have on them and their ability to drive, they will ultimately make the right decision to not drive impaired.”
The Ford DSFL program implemented the drunk suit into its North American curriculum earlier this year so that dozens of high school students can experience the suit firsthand at each event. It is estimated that hundreds of students will have worn the suit during DSFL by year’s end.
For 18-year-old Jeffery Hong, who participated in the Dallas, Texas, Ford DSFL event earlier this year, the suit threw off his balance and movement enough for him to think twice before getting behind the wheel in any impaired condition.
“This experience helped me realize that if these physical feelings were to be combined with the mental side effects of impairment, you’ll have a real recipe for disaster when an impaired person gets behind the wheel,” Hong said.
The suit also has garnered media attention across the country, including being featured in segments on CBS and Fox News affiliates.
*Statistics referenced in this video apply to the European market only*
The suit was developed in Europe by the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany in partnership with the recently launched Ford DSFL program in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK. The suit was then shared with other Ford DSFL programs in the United States and Canada.
For Green, adding the suit to the curriculum comes down to the method of experiencing vs. explaining.
“To have the ability to show what can and will go wrong if the decision is made to drive impaired has a lasting impact on the teen participants,” Green said. “Most people, especially teens, learn and retain more information when they can experience it themselves. By putting the suit on a teen, they not only feel the effects of the suit and receive a very serious message about impaired driving, but they may also have fun going through the various tests and demonstrations – and this means they will remember the experience and the message.”
The Driving Skills for Life program was established in 2003 by Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governors Highway Safety Association and a panel of safety experts with the mission of teaching newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safer driving, and the importance of making good decisions while driving. This is a free, advanced driving skills program for novice drivers. The program encourages parental involvement, which can contribute greatly to developing safe driving habits. In its first 10 years, Ford Driving Skills for Life has directly trained more than 30,000 teens in nearly 900 school districts in 39 states, plus 15 international markets.
Click here to o learn more about Ford Driving Skills for Life, and to see if the program will be coming to an area near you.